Sysadmins slam Conroy’s Wi-Fi “misinformation”


Australia’s peak organisation for systems administrators has accused Communications Minister Stephen Conroy of producing “misinformation” in relation to his claim that internet banking details could have been collected by Google’s Street View cars during their scanning of Wi-Fi access points.

Conroy had reportedly warned of the potential for the financial information to be collected, as part of ongoing public attacks he has made on the search giant for what many believe to be a gross breach of privacy by its Street View cars, which it has acknowledged collected some payload data from Wi-Fi networks on their travels across the globe.

But in a statement released today, the Systems Administrators Guild of Australia (SAGE-AU) said Conroy’s banking claims were “misinformation verging on fear-mongering”.

“While it is clear Google’s Street View cars collected more data than necessary – a practice not condoned by SAGE-AU – Internet banking data is safe from collection due to the nature of the communications from web browsers to Internet banking servers,” said the group’s spokesperson Iain Robertson in a statement.

Conroy’s office has been invited by email to respond to SAGE-AU’s statement. This article will be updated with any response.

Robertson pointed out that banking transactions conducted over the internet used the Secure Sockets Layer encryption standard to protect data.

“The use of encryption in this manner is a proven technology and is part of banking industry standard practice throughout Australia. Even if portions of Internet banking communications were intercepted by Google’s Street View cars, it is not possible for that data to be decrypted by unintended recipients such as Google,” he said.

Google’s cars would have only been able to collect data from unsecured Wi-Fi access points (those not using encryption standards such as the current preferred option, WPA2). SAGE-AU said it recommended the use of this additional layer of standard.

Image credit: azbarkmans, Creative Commons


  1. And what Conroy also apparently fails to realise is that if the Streetview cards were whizzing along streets at 50km\h picking up WiFi signals, they would not have picked up anything notable, and for the most part would be random packets which would have little or no meaning.

    • I think a telling fact in this whole debate (as with all privacy debates) is that there actually have been no privacy implications of Google’s actions so far. Nobody has come forward and said: “Google took my data and did something with it and now my life is demonstratably changed in these negative ways.”

      In short, nobody knows what data Google has, the data is probably junk that would not be usable without some serious data mining, and even if it wasn’t, Google has pledged to delete it/and hand it over to the authorities.

      We should be getting over this debate and moving on to something that matters.

  2. A technically illiterate moron, and an outright liar. Just what you want from the man responsible for the future of telecommunications in Australia.

    What saddens me is I’ll still have to indirectly vote for him. There’s just no way I can bring myself to vote for the alternative.

    • If you live in Victoria, there’s a site here that will, upon the release of the ballot papers, provide printable instructions to take with you to the polling booth so that you can vote below the line for your party of choice but put Conroy last.

      • Hilarious! The fact that Conroy is a Senator does make it a little hard for those of us who don’t live in Victoria to attempt to vote him out at the next election :)

        Having said that, I wouldn’t say it’s Conroy that is the main problem with Labor’s policies, especially on the filter. It’s the party line entirely that needs to be changed. That is something that is a much bigger challenge.

  3. A nice feature! (putting Conroy last on any piece of paper would feel great) but alas I’m in Tas.

    Given the scope of issues we’ll be voting on this election it’ll be a tough vote indeed. I love the tech industry, but to me there are more important issues I’ll be voting for which sway my vote (albeit a very reluctant one) towards Labor.

    • Interesting Simon — what are the other issues that you’re voting pro-Labor on? There seems to be a movement away from Labor at the moment, although I think most people still expect them to win the next election fairly easily.

      • It’s not so much that I’m swaying “towards Labor” Renai, but more it’s a defiant stance against Liberal. Malcom Turnball represented a much more “centre right” opposition, and was a strong support of a Republic and the ETS. When Tony Abbott came to power the Liberal party is now back to being a terrifying hard right, conservative, monarch supporting, capitalist army, and I would rather be set on fire than give them my vote. Tony Abbott is a religious, climate change denying, lying, “1950’s style” dinosaur who would take this country back to the dark ages. The prospect of him leading this country scares the crap out of me.

        I am angry as hell with Rudd for walking away from climate change, employing a clueless technology minister with stupid policies, taking a hard line on immigration with no compassion whatsoever, and a multitude of other issues. Hence as I said my vote for Labor will be a reluctant one.

        It really is a classic case of the “lesser of two evils”.

  4. Second story today about the dingleberry Conroy. Honestly, I do try and stay away from politics but having that man in the position he’s in winds me up! Mind you, even some folks in the EU are making the same claims about banking details being exposed so he’s not alone on this particular issue.

    Strictly speaking you could say that some of the (encrypted) packets may well have contained parts of a session with a banking system but to suggest that the information is usable/complete/readable is at best misleading…

    • I’d like to see Google make a statement about what sorts of data it collected so that we could see really what is in there … as many technically minded people have said, it really could be just a lot of garbage, depending on how fast the Street View cars drive etc. And as you’ve said, much of the important internet traffic is encrypted these days anyway.

  5. The main point, really is that Senator Conroy has no clue about the industry he claims to represent, repeatedly issues moronic statements like this one, with a frequency that makes your head spin, as well as failing to either elicit or act on informed, intelligent factual information that would actually help him do his job properly, if that was in fact what he wanted to do.

    WE know he’s talking out of turn about things he knows nothing about, but we are a tiny minority of the public. The damage he is doing to HIS OWN PORTFOLIO, and the emerging industries related to it is boggling! If KRudd wants to defend this minister’s actions, far worse in my mind than the more personal dalliances of a recently uncloseted minister which led to his resignation.

    How did this Luddite get this brief? The difference between Sen Conroy and Ludlum are like night and day, since Ludlam spends time researching, learning, and consulting before he makes public statements.

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